Editor’s note: This letter is in response to a story that appeared in the Wednesday, Sept. 11 edition of The Telegram
It has recently been in the news regarding the inclusion of Lester’s Farm Market as one of the vendors at the St. John’s Farmers’ Market (SJFM). We have seen a great deal of misunderstanding and misinterpretation in public dialogue that has come from these media stories.
We are releasing this statement so that the public has an opportunity to understand the purpose of the SJFM, and our relationships with vendors.
The St. John’s Farmers’ Market is a non-profit co-operative. We are not run by the city, although we do operate within one of their buildings. We are governed by a volunteer Board of Directors made up of half vendors and half consumers, and operate based on policies that have been developed by the board and our cooperative members over the last twelve years.
One of the fundamental missions of the SJFM is to be a business incubator. What that means is that we help small businesses grow. We support home-based and small enterprises find their footing in the business world of St. John’s and beyond, so that they can have a point of sale for customers, and have the opportunity to refine their business to meet consumer needs. This has always been our operating model.
This focus on small business has enabled numerous enterprises to build from the ground up. It includes artisans, food vendors and farmers. Some of the businesses that began here at the SJFM, have used us as a launching point to grow into larger, stronger, and more sustainable operations.
Some are still with us. Others have outgrown us and we are thrilled for their successes.
In accordance with our policies, and out of support for small business, we have historically not accepted larger enterprises at the SJFM. This would include larger production farmers such as Lester’s Farm Market who already have a significant place as a produce supplier in this city, as well as a large retail location.
This policy was developed several years ago realizing that smaller businesses who have few other opportunities to sell their products would be negatively affected by larger enterprises that can produce significant amounts of product and sell it at a rate that that could compromise the ability of small family-run farms to be competitive.
In trying to balance the needs of our customers to have fresh, local produce, while still ensuring our small farmers could continue to survive, we worked to reach a middle ground with Lester’s Farm Market.
At no point was the Lester’s Farm Market “banned” from the SJFM.
Although they did not meet the criteria for being a vendor at the SJFM given their size and production capacity, the SJFM opted to make an exception to our policy in a way that would minimize the impact on small family farms, and chose to invite them to be a vendor during Sunday Markets.
Lester’s agreed, and has been vending at our Sunday markets since the beginning of August. We have been happy to have them here and believed that we had reached an agreement that was a win for both the vendor and market customers.
The St. John’s Farmers’ Market remains committed to the fostering of small business growth. With more than 150 small- or home-based businesses operating through the market, we hope that this current situation will not detract from the exceptional artisans, cooks, bakers, and farmers that work diligently to provide local, fresh and handmade items for customers each week, while supporting their families, and their communities.
St. John’s Farmers’ Market Co-operative